Entry Nickname: If You Give a Girl a Redo
Title: The Art of Almost
Word count: 110,000
Genre: Upmarket Women’s Fiction
Pediatric surgeon Anna Marin already carries too many regrets. She’s still not over the one who got away or the fallout from her mother’s devastating stroke. On a flight home to marry the wrong man, she vows to save herself further remorse by breaking off her engagement. It’s time move on—from all of it.
But when Anna wakes as her 20-year-old self en route to study in Australia, it seems fate has a different idea: a second chance with Charlie Beckham, the older man she was drawn to but never pursued out of loyalty to her eventual fiancé Nick Halstead. This time Anna falls hard, and being with Charlie is even better than what she’s spent more than a decade imagining.
Yet if the rest of Anna’s history plays out as it once did, in a few months her mother will suffer a debilitating stroke that renders her unable to care for Anna’s six-year-old sister Noelle. Crushed by the loss, Noelle will begin a downward spiral from which she never recovers.
Try as she might to alter her mother’s path, it soon becomes clear that Anna must make an impossible decision: walk away from the love of her life—again—or stay with Charlie and allow her family’s future to be marred by illness and abandonment. Adding to Anna’s distress, Nick arrives in Australia to win her back. Seeing him as the boy she used to know, Anna finally realizes she also played a part in their relationship’s unraveling.
As her one-day fiancé changes his course, and complications emerge in her relationship with Charlie, Anna’s even more confused by what the past, present, and future hold. All the while she wonders when her time in the past will run out, or whether the clock’s been rewound for good.
First 250 words:
The front door slammed. Automatically my body stiffened. What I needed to do was move, and fast. Yet I stood still, staring down the garment bag hanging from the closet door. Just the thought of unzipping it exhausted me. I couldn’t fathom how I’d manage a night of small talk engineered to boost already-inflated egos.
I pushed the bag aside and looked into the full-length mirror to confirm what I already knew: thanks to seven hours under a surgical cap, my hair was a disaster. And to my knowledge no product existed to tame curls that looked like you’d spent the night doing cartwheels in a wind tunnel.
“Anna Jane?” came Nick’s voice from the foyer. “You ready?”
I grabbed my robe and wrapped it around me. “I’m not quite—”
He burst into the closet. “What the—you’re not even dressed? The car’s gonna be here in ten minutes!”
I was the one who agreed to attend the black tie benefit, and I was the one who offered up pro bono time knowing full well I’d be late getting home. But still it was him I was angry with. “O’Keefe needed a peds surgeon for the Kelley case. An OR opened up and they’ve been waiting for weeks, and tonight’s just—”
“Just what, Anna? Tonight’s just what?”
I turned to unzip the bag for a reason to break his gaze. “I can’t control the schedule, Nick.”
What I didn’t admit was that a colleague had offered his time too, but I’d insisted.
Entry Nickname: Baby Blues Ruse
Title: The Calling Of One
Word Count: 88K
Genre: Adult Upmarket Apocalyptic
Mikenna Lawson wakes up every morning wishing she wasn’t the last human ever born. When the human race makes the permanent decision to stop reproducing, Mikenna imagines herself as the second Eve, and repopulating the Earth.
But Mikenna doesn’t know she was born during a time when reproduction was illegal; that her mother, Anna, had risked both their lives for a chance at life. So when she learns from her Aunt Rebekah that she was sterilized at birth, her hopes come crashing down. One day she’s Googling images of babiesto see if they look like the ones she sees in her dreams. The next day she’s contemplating suicide so someone else can be the last. And despite her wonderful husband, Mikenna abstains from sexual relations because of its emotional connection to her sterilization.
As Mikenna nears menopause, and the human race dwindles, she discovers what she should’ve known years before: she was never sterilized. Rebekah had known all along that the doctor who delivered Mikenna saved her from the sterilization.
The truth tears at Mikenna’s heart as the dream of having a child, and continuing the human race, becomes possible. But she’ll have to decide if fulfilling her own desire is worth subjecting an innocent child to the burdens of an empty world.
First 250 words:
Each leaden footstep Anna took through her unlit home brought her closer to the garage; closer to victory; and each painstaking step symbolized defiance against The Decision. At the end of the hallway she measured the distance to her next supporting wall and shuffled on. But a growing ache halted her at the dining room table. In desperation, she grasped the closest chair, breathing quick, rapid breaths. Her back shuddered, as if the Earth had just shifted across her spine, and it threatened to bring her body down in a crumbling mess. Her contracting muscles pulsed, hastening her daughter toward an undeserved life.
“Oh, my precious little girl,” Anna whispered, “I’m sorry I got you into this. I’m sorry, Mikenna, but one day you’ll know . . . my heart was selfless.”
At the point of collapse, Anna grit her teeth, and with a huff of determination, heaved herself up. She pushed off, and continued on with trembling knees through her hiding place, her cage. Five steps more, and Anna turned toward the living room. David stood to the side of the window, concealing himself in the darkness, holding the curtain back slightly with his pointer finger. A shaft of light from the afternoon sun snuck past and landed on the carpet, exposing a flurry of dust.
“I’m ready,” Anna beckoned. “David . . . please?”
Anna waited. Her labored breathing filled the silence.
“Where are They?” David mocked, looking outside. “They have to know.”
“They can’t,” Anna pleaded. “Please, God, They can’t."